Legal dramas come and legal dramas go, with some succeeding admirably (congrats to Julianna Marguiles for her Golden Globes win for her performance on CBS’s “The Good Wife”) and some failing miserably (stand up, please, TNT’s critically-berated “Raising the Bar”), but they’re a proven commodity, so it’s rarely a surprise to hear that another one’s being rolled out. Tonight brings the premiere of ABC’s latest contribution to the genre, “The Deep End,” and when the cast and producers of the series sat still for their panel during the TCA press tour, it was only to be expected that someone would ask them if they’re bringing anything new to the table.
“I kind of see this show as kind of the reboot of the legal show,” said executive prodcer David Hemingson. “I think if you go all the way back in television history, back to ‘Perry Mason’ and ‘The Defenders’ and certainly the incredible job that Steven Bochco did with ‘L.A. Law,’ and David E. Kelley, there’s a rich tradition. Like with medical shows, there’s a rich tradition of legal shows, but I think there’s never been a legal show that has taken it from the perspective of these newly minted lawyers, these newbees, these kids who’ve come out and they’re confronting the reality of their practice for the first time and they’re being dropped into this intensely political, highly charged environment and also, you know, having the partners kind of reflecting on how they’ve changed in relation to the kids. So I think the interpersonal aspects of the show, I think the comedy of the show, the sexiness of the show, the fun of the show is something we haven’t quite seen, especially from a 20-something perspective. And when you consider the fact that it’s also sort of conflated with some really realistic kind of ripped-from-the-headlines cases that we’re doing, I think it distinguishes itself from anything that’s been on thus far. At least, we hope it does.”
Hemingson also acknowledged that the timing couldn’t have been more perfect to get the series onto ABC. “I would say it was sort of like a confluence of circumstances or a wonderful moment,” he said, “because I actually started out as a lawyer coming from New York to L.A. some years ago, and it was a story that I always wanted to tell, a story very near and dear to my heart. And I felt like with a couple of decades I had some perspective and it just so happened that it coincided with ABC’s need for new drama, a new dramedy. And so the stars kind of aligned for us, and I just feel fortunate to be doing it this way with Jan and with this fantastic cast.”
Of that cast, the face that will likely leap out to most viewers is Billy Zane, who gets yet another opportunity to tear into a larger-than-life character as Cliff Huddle. Someone immediately made the observation that the actor’s name rhymes with another famous TV lawyer (Denny Crane), but it’s apparently complete coincidence.
“This character was based on someone that came directly out of David’s experience,” revealed Zane. “Now, obviously, we have the flesh and bone and the odd bit of spin on the free throw, but it’s all there. This is writing at its best, which is why we’re all here and, I think, is a testament to what hopefully will be the success of this show and what people will find endearing and identifiable about the characters. As repellent and attractive and inspired as they are, you cannot wait to see what they’re going to do next.”
Hemingson quickly clarified Zane’s statement about the source of his character’s inspiration. “I practiced basically as an attorney for three years, three months, two days…but who’s counting?” he asked, rhetorically. “It was definitely one of the transformative experiences of my life, and I got to know a lot of really supercharged personalities, (but) the lawyer’s answer would be that any resemblance to any character living today is purely coincidental.”
That’s probably the best possible tactic to take when discussing Cliff’s origins, given that the next person to question Zane about his character used the phrase “Prince of Darkness” to describe him. Zane clarifies, however, that Cliff isn’t the Devil nor even a devil.
Continue reading »